Eleven percent of poor 9-month-old infants live with a mother suffering from severe depression symptoms. Among all infants nationally, the figures are 41 percent and seven percent, respectively.
The Urban Institute study is the first national look at the characteristics, access to services, and parenting approaches of poor, depressed mothers with infants.
The researchers point out that most of these families are connected to certain social services and health care providers, which presents a clear opportunity to help them.
The study analyzes data from a U.S. Department of Education survey involving a nationally representative sample of 14,000 children born in 2001.
Assessments of maternal depression were based on mothers' responses to a modified version of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, which measures the frequency of depressive symptoms during the prior week. The mothers had not necessarily been diagnosed with clinical depression.
"Depression can interfere with parenting and compromise a child's development-setbacks that are particularly devastating during infancy. It is crucial that depressed mothers also weighed down by poverty get the support and services that can help them and their children thrive," says Tracy Vericker, the study's lead researcher.